In the Taira lineage of Kobudo that I learned from Minowa sensei and Yoshimura sensei there are several technically complex bo kata that are taught including: Chinen Shiki Yanaka no kon (知念志喜屋仲の棍), Choun no kon (趙雲の棍), Chatan Yara no kon (北谷屋良の棍), Tsuken bo (津堅棒), Sesoko no kon (瀬底の棍), and Soeishi no kon (添石の棍). Oddly enough, as was pointed out in great blog post by Andreas Quast, you rarely see these older bo kata (FYI, if you haven’t purchased and read Andreas’ book “Karate 1.0” I highly recommend that you do).
As you know, Chatan Yara no kon was created by Yara of Chatan who may also have made the weapons kata Chatan Yara no sai (北谷屋良の釵), Yara gwa no tonfa (屋良小の転破) and the empty-hand kata Yara no Kusanku. Yara reportedly learned his martial skills while living in China, and like Sakugawa Kanga, had also studied under Kusanku (1). Choun no kon was created by Soeishi, a master of Shuri who specialized in the practice of the bo. In his later years he created Soeishi ryu Bojutsu which included Shushi no kon, Soeishi no kon, Choun no kon (1).
Recently, I wondered if there were any good examples of Choun no Kon and Chatan Yara no kon from the Taira lineage. A cursory look online found many examples of Choun no kon from the Matayoshi lineage but only one from the Taira lineage. If I were to make an educated guess about the performer, I would say that he looks like a student of Kinjo Masakazu who was a student of Minowa sensei.
Taira Lineage Choun no Kon
Chatan Yara no kon which was one of Minowa sensei’s favorite kata, did not fair much better. The only examples that I found seemed to be derivatives of a version taught by the late Richard Kim that bear little resemblance to the Taira version.
Kim Lineage Chatan Yara no Kon
Looking at the Kim version, I have to say that it bears little resemblance to the Taira version I learned from sensei. The Taira version of Chatan Yara no Kon is long and complex and contains a wide variety of techniques. I suppose that it didn’t help that all the Kobudoka in the video doing this version of Chatan Yara no kon had questionable body mechanics (essentially doing “kurodee” with a stick in their hands).
So, there doesn’t appear to be many Kobudo teachers outside of Okinawa and Japan in the Taira lineage that know the higher bo kata, or more accurately, there are no teachers online that have demonstrated them. Of course, there are probably some, but I haven’t come across them yet. The reason for this is simple as Andreas’ post aptly pointed out (he references Sesoko no kon, but the rationale applies to any higher-level kata):
…you probably never learned Sesoko no Kon simply because your Sensei didn’t learn it, and neither his Sensei did. “So why did no one actually go there and research it?” you might ask. Well, simply because it is well beyond people’s control.
These higher bo kata require a strong foundation and long-term study under a teacher who actually knows them. That can be challenging outside of Okinawa but not impossible. Sadly, many kobudoka simply don’t have that foundation and the drive to seek them out, nor take the time and learn them. Maybe that will change someday.
(1) Nakamoto, M. (1983) “Okinawa Dento Kobudo: Sono Rekishi to Tamashii (History and Spirit of Traditional Okinawa Kobudo).” Okinawa: Bunbukan.